DAVAO CITY—The State of Israel opened its honorary consulate here on October 6, in a meaningful ceremony which recalled the open-door policy by former Philippine president Manuel L. Quezon that allowed the hosting of Jewish refugees in World War II.
It was the same historic event that had been recalled in speeches during the installation of the consulate in this city, and of Honorary Consul Jorge Narciso Marquez.
Following Rabbi Eliyahu Azaria’s blessing rite, Ambassador Rafael Harpaz affirmed that his country would forever cherish this singular act of an Asian country, which he said was further galvanized by the support of the Philippines, courtesy of the late president Manuel A. Roxas, as the lone Asian country which supported in the 1947 United Nations General Assembly the recognition of the creation of the Israeli state.
The ambassador also recalled that Israel had been returning the favor to Filipinos. During the devastation of Supertyphoon Yolanda (international codename Haiyan) in 2013, the state sent “the biggest amount of assistance” in the form of two medical and rescue ships, medical doctors, relief personnel and 100 tons of medical items. (The envoy would later mention about the birth of babies in Eastern Visayas named “Israel.”)
Harpaz said the honorary consulate would have jurisdiction over the entire Mindanao region to heighten business and other opportunities, especially in agriculture and tourism.
As he read Marquez’s appointment in Hebrew and English, the Israeli diplomat described the consul general as a symbol of “the best of humankind,” and that no other person is more fit for the position: An amazing family man, and an exemplar of the Filipinos.
IN his acceptance of the assignment, Marquez regards it as a “privilege” to represent the nation of Israel, and to assist in establishing harmonious relationships between the two nations.
He likewise noted a Biblical reference to the address of the consulate general and the chapter of Book of Psalms of the same number.
As one of the first foreign contingents to assist the Philippines in dealing with the pandemic, Israel had donated medical and construction materials to the Davao City Health Office, including personal protective equipment, doppler monitors, computers and air conditioners. It has also provided training to local professionals, including a yearly sponsorship of study travel to about 600 Filipinos.
Israel’s Agency for International Development Cooperation, Mashav, with Marquez prior to his installation, had also provided medical supplies and equipment to the Bunawan District Lying-in, Malabog Birthing Home, and Toril Health Center in Davao City. The donated items aim to assist in the upgrading of the said facilities and address the needs of the health centers.
Officials send greetings
IN his speech, Yoray Ofek, president of the Israel Chamber of Commerce of the Philippines, believes in the honorary consulate’s potential to amplify the partnership between the two countries. Jewish Association of the Philippines President Salito Malca also extended his group’s warm felicitations for the opening.
For Mindanao and Davao, Mayor Sara Z. Duterte-Carpio sees the consulate serving as a gateway to boost beneficial projects by both countries, as well as increase the bilateral and exchanges of Davaoeños and Israelis even further. The local chief executive recalled in her keynote that she accompanied the president two years ago to Israel that paved the stronger diplomatic ties between the two peoples and governments.
Meanwhile, Secretary of Foreign Affairs Teodoro L. Locsin Jr. confirmed the relations between the Philippines and Israel continued to be vibrant in the areas of defense, agriculture, labor, and tourism. He cited the waived the visa requirement for Filipinos traveling to Israel, usually for pilgrimage and work.
Mindanaoan Senators Emmanuel D. Pacquiao, Christopher Lawrence T. Go and Ronald M. de la Rosa also sent their greetings via video.
In his recorded congratulatory message on the installation, President Duterte considers the opening of the consulate as “another significant landmark in the long history of the bilateral relations between Israel and the Philippines.
The Chief Executive, the event’s guest of honor, deemed the development will “further cement the mutual trust, goodwill, and friendship between our countries,” and that “the strong Israeli presence will contribute to Mindanao’s rise by opening new opportunities, investments, employment, and people-to-people exchanges.”
The honorary consulate was the latest addition to the current consulate general offices of Malaysia, Indonesia, Japan, and China.
With a report from Mike Policarpio
Image credits: Embassy of Israel